Saturday, December 17, 2011

What's New in Blu? (Week of Dec. 20)

“Dolphin Tale” (PG)
Starring Harry Connick Jr., Ashley Judd, Nathan Gamble, Kris Kristofferson, Cozi Zuehlsdorff and Morgan Freeman
Directed by Charles Martin Smith

“Margin Call” (R)
Starring Kevin Spacey, Paul Bettany, Jeremy Irons, Zachary Quinto, Penn Badgley, Simon Baker, Mary McDonnell, Demi Moore and Stanley Tucci
Directed by JC Chandor

“Midnight in Paris” (PG-13)
Starring Kathy Bates, Adrien Brody, Carla Bruni, Marion Cottilard, Rachel McAdams, Michael Sheen, Owen Wilson
Directed by Woody Allen

“Straw Dogs” (R)
Starring James Marsden, Kate Bosworth, Alexander Skaarsgard, Dominic Purcell, Laz Alonso, Willa Holland and James Woods
Directed by Rod Lurie

“Warrior” (PG-13)
Starring Joel Edgerton, Tom Hardy, Jennifer Morrison, Frank Grillo and Nick Nolte
Directed by Gavin O’Connor

Sunday, December 11, 2011

What's New in Blu? (Week of Dec. 13)

“City of God” (R)
Starring Alexandre Rodrigues, Matheus Nathergaele, Leandro Firmino
Directed by Fernando Meirelles

With the Olympics coming to Brazil in 2016, it’s safe to say this movie won’t be promoted by the country’s board of tourism, as it tells a tale of crime and poverty in a particularly violent suburb over parts of three decades. Adapted from a novel by Paulo Lins, director Fernando Meirelles’ crime drama pulsates with energy and eye-catching visuals.

It features a cast mostly made up of local Brazilians, some from the very neighborhoods where the filming takes place. It could be seen, in part, as a Brazilian version of “Goodfellas.” But the locale itself differentiates it from that Oscar winner, producing a rare glimpse into making tough life choices when the options and opportunities are scarce.
Grade: A

“Fright Night” (R)
Starring Anton Yelchin, Colin Farrell, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, David Tennant and Toni Collette
Directed by Craig Gilespie

“Kung Fu Panda 2” (PG)
Starring the voices of Jack Black, Angelina Jolie, Dustin Hoffman, Gary Oldman, Jackie Chan, Seth Rogen, Lucy Liu, David Cross
Directed by Jennifer Yuh

“Rise of the Planet of the Apes” (PG-13)
Starring James Franco, Freida Pinto, John Lithgow, Brian Cox, Tom Felton, Andy Serkis
Directed by Rupert Wyatt

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Movie review: "The Descendants"

Starring George Clooney, Shailene Woodley, Beau Bridges, Judy Greer
Directed by Alexander Payne

First off, Alexander Payne should make movies more often. Seven years since winning an Oscar for co-writing the screenplay for “Sideways,” the writer-director has finally made his follow-up. And much like the great 2004 comedy-drama following a pair of men on a road trip into California’s wine country, “The Descendants” takes viewers on another journey of discovery that mixes laughs in with serious domestic upheaval.

Matt King (George Clooney), a workaholic lawyer in Hawaii, finds himself faced with some mighty big dilemmas as the story begins. His wife has fallen into a coma after a tragic speedboat crash, leaving him with the task of stepping up as a father to their two children: Scotti (Amara Miller), a 10-year-old with attitude to spare, and 17-year-old Alexandra (Shailene Woodley), who is just barely able to keep her anger and disappointment in her parents under the surface.

Learning early on from doctors that his wife’s condition will not improve, Matt goes to retrieve Alexandra from boarding school (finding her there drunk), and sets out with his children to break the bad news to family and friends. The painful process for Matt is unexpectedly complicated when he learns his wife was in the midst of an affair prior to her accident, setting him off on an obsessive hunt to discover who she was involved with.

As if his domestic drama wasn’t enough, a big decision was already weighing on Matt’s mind before his wife’s accident, involving the potential sale of 25,000 acres of prime real estate on one of the islands. As the primary beneficiary, Matt holds all the cards as to whether his family (including a large assortment of cousins) makes off like bandits by selling the pristine property to real estate developers. It’s a burden he probably could have done without at this exact point in his life.

Like Payne’s prior efforts, “The Descendants” moves at a relaxed pace, allowing time for the personalities and intentions of the characters to emerge. Clooney, leaving his almost trademarked charm at the door, strikes the right cord with a performance that could have easily veered off into scenery chewing, given the complexity of emotions required for his character. He’s matched consistently by Woodley (a newcomer to movies) as the eldest daughter, swimming through resentment at her mother and a wary skepticism of her father being able to keep their family unit together.

Balancing a steady dose of comedic moments with tragic drama isn’t easy to pull off. Most movies fail in this regard, lapsing into cheap sentiment and melodrama. But “The Descendants” finds a comfortable balance that manages to surprise at times, remaining effectively funny and moving, while staying true to the flawed nature of the characters.

Grade: A
(Rated R for language including some sexual references.)

Sunday, December 04, 2011

What's New in Blu? (Week of Dec. 6)

“Cowboys and Aliens” (PG-13)
Starring Daniel Craig, Harrison Ford, Olivia Wilde, Sam Rockwell, Adam Beach, Paul Dano, Noah Ringer
Directed by Jon Favreau

“The Debt” (R)
Starring Helen Mirren, Sam Worthington, Jessica Chastain and Tom Wilkinson
Directed by John Madden

“The Hangover Part II” (R)
Starring Bradley Cooper, Ed Helms, Zach Galifianakis, Ken Jeong, Jeffrey Tambor, Justin Bartha and Paul Giamatti
Directed by Todd Phillips

“The Help” (PG-13)
Starring Jessica Chastain, Viola Davis, Bryce Dallas Howard, Allison Janney, Octavia Spencer, Emma Stone
Directed by Tate Taylor

“Mr. Popper’s Penguins” (PG)
Starring Jim Carrey, Carla Gugino, Angela Lansbury, Ophelia Lovibond, Madeline Carroll, Clark Gregg, Jeffrey Tambor
Directed by Mark Watters

Saturday, December 03, 2011

Back from hiatus

After a long hiatus, this site is back online and ready to get back into discussions of all things cinematic. Sorry for the absence, as movies were still a part of my life over these past few months. Just writing about them wasn’t. Can I use writer’s block as an excuse? (No? OK, fine.)

Anyway, for those of you who have visited here before, welcome back. I’m sure you’re noticing a different look to the presentation. Gone are the rather outdated links from the old site, and a more eye-catching look (at least I think so). Some more tweaks might be in the works once updates get rolling again.

And for those who’ve never graced me with your presence previously, welcome aboard. This site will try to fill that void in your life — you know, the one missing the guy telling you a bunch of stuff about movies you may or may not have ever seen or heard of before. Or telling you what things you can go rent or have streamed onto the electronic device of your choosing. You might not even know it’s a void in your life. But trust me, it is!

What’ll be coming in the next few weeks is still being tweaked, but count on previews (complete with trailers, which will be the best part of some of these movies) of coming releases both in theaters and on Blu-ray, occasional movie news items and reviews of films from yesterday and today. If you’ve got comments and suggestions for the site, feel free to drop me a line in the comments section at the end of the posts.

Oh, and for you social media lovers, you can also “tweet” and “like” the posts on Twitter and Facebook. Yes, that’s right, this site has stepped into the social media world, and only several years after it should have!

Well, that’s it for now. I’ve got some movies to watch and writing to do. So enjoy the show (and the new and improved site)!